Hordes of baseball starved Cubs fans are marching toward Wrigleyville to celebrate a spring right-of-passage. Hope springs eternal on opening day.
The Cubs 2010 slogan, propelled by thier new owner Tom Ricketts is "year one", a play on words meant to rethink the franchise's hundred-plus year drought without a championship.
Like every year, optimism is high. And like every year, it appears the Chicago Cubs (2-4), who return to Wrigley Field Monday for the 2010 Home Opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, are the same old team.
They lost to the Cincinnati Reds Sunday despite a fine pitching performance by Tom Gorzelanny, capping off an up-and-down first week on the road, with series in Atlanta and Cincinnati.
Their uneven play was perhaps best reflected by ace Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano gave up eight runs in 1 1-3 innings in an opening day loss to the Braves and then bounced back to throw seven solid innings for a win against the Reds.
When Piniella is announced Monday and makes the short jog out of the dugout, he could be starting his final home season with the Cubs. His contract expires after the season, but there is a chance he could re-up and that decision will rest with him and general manager Jim Hendry.
The rivalry between the Cubs and Brewers has heated up over the last several seasons, especially when they battled for the division title in 2007 and 2008 with Chicago winning both times and Milwaukee claiming the wild card two years ago.
Now they get an early look at one another.
"We've been on the road for a week here or so, a long spring training. It will be nice getting back to Chicago and our home ballpark," Piniella added.
When the Brewers make the short 90-mile trip from Milwaukee, they'll have a familiar face in uniform.
Jim Edmonds, 39, batted .256 with 19 homers in 85 games with the Cubs in 2008. After sitting out a year, the former Cardinal is continuing his tour of the NL Central with the Brewers and has split playing time in right with Corey Hart.
When he was hitting, Edmonds was the type of player Piniella likes — a veteran presence with an edge, a good fielder and a left-handed bat.
The Brewers are coming off series with the Cardinals, and now Edmonds will be seeing some more old friends.
"It's just another game for me. Trying to treat it that way," he said. "I'm happy that everything's going good, and I've got a chance to play. It doesn't matter right now where that is."